EWG Names "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen"

The Environmental Working Group's annual study examines the "cleanest" and the "dirtiest" fruits and vegetables.

Published on: Jun 27, 2012

Environmental Working Group has released the eighth edition of its Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce with information on fruits and vegetables and their pesticide loads. EWG analyzed residue tests conducted by the USDA and federal Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2010 for the report.

EWG separated popular fruits and vegetables into two groups: "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen." Samples tested were first washed or peeled prior to testing. Rankings likely reflect the amounts of the crop chemicals present on the food when is it eaten.

Clean Fifteen

The Environmental Working Groups annual study examines the "cleanest" and the "dirtiest" fruits and vegetables.
The Environmental Working Group's annual study examines the "cleanest" and the "dirtiest" fruits and vegetables.

The produce least likely to test positive for pesticides were asparagus, avocado, cabbage, grapefruit, watermelon, eggplants, pineapples, mushrooms, onions, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.

More than 90% of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant and sweet potato samples had one or fewer pesticides detected. Of the Clean Fifteen vegetables, no single sample had more than five different chemicals, and no single fruit sample had more than five types of pesticides detected.

Dirty Dozen

The report estimated that 98% of conventionally-grown apples have detectable levels of pesticides. Domestic blueberries and lettuce samples also tested positive for 42 and 78 different pesticide residues, respectively.

Some additional fruits and vegetables deemed "dirty" by EWG were sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, grapes, and celery.

Pesticides in Baby Food

USDA scientists analyzed about 190 samples each of prepared baby food consisting of green beans, pears and sweet potatoes, finding that the green beans tested positive for five pesticides. Pears prepared as baby food also showed contamination.

"Federal testing of pesticide residue in baby food was long overdue, as infants are especially vulnerable to toxic compounds," said Andrew Weil, MD, Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

Sweet potatoes sold as baby food had virtually no detectable pesticide residues.

EWG President Ken Cook said the findings of the report and growing popularity of organics has an underlying message.

"The explosive growth in market share for organic produce in recent years testifies to a simple fact that pesticide companies and the farmers who use their products just can't seem to grasp: people don't like to eat food contaminated by pesticides," he said.